Alive! San Francisco
Edit: I wrote to the owner and he replied and explained the situation. Apparently they were having a bad night--short staffed, new waitress, car troubles so the owner couldn't be there himself, etc. He offered to make it up to us and was very nice about it over email. So, I'm not deleting my original review below, but realize it was just an off night for Alive and if you decide to go there you'll probably have a much better experience. :)
It's odd how many times I've been to Cafe Gratitude but never to Alive!. I've had their food at the farmer's market and it was great. It's gotten rave reviews. So tonight, I recommended it to a friend for her birthday dinner, and off we went. Overall, a total disappointment, and I'm feeling very guilty for ruining part of her evening.
First off, the place is tiny. Maybe 5 tables inside. Their website and flyers say nothing about reservations. We got there a little after opening, and it was full. The only space was at a larger table already occupied by 2 people. The waitress asked them if we could sit there too, and they looked at each other very uncomfortably and said "uh, yeah, I guess..." Clearly it was not ok with them, so we felt very bad for disrupting their dinner. We asked about the outdoor seating, which was advertised on the flyer as a "heated patio." The heaters didn't work and there were no lights. We sat out there anyway because it wasn't too cold/dark yet (around 5:45 pm) and well, what choice did we have? I will say that the patio was very cute, lots of plants and a beautiful plum tree.
We ordered tea & coffee, received it 10 minutes later, and didn't see the waitress again for 30 minutes. By the time she came to take our dinner orders, the 3-ounce cups we paid $3 each for were long since empty (no refills or 2nd cups offered.) Then we didn't see the waitress for 40 more minutes. We were about to climb up the tree and start eating the plums.
Dinner arrived. I got the tomato mushroom torte, my friend got the veggie noodles with almond herb sauce. Both looked great and the portions were moderate, though not generous. The problem was, the food was drowning in oil. There must have been literally 1/4 cup of olive oil on my plate. There was some salad garnish around my torte, but beneath it the entire plate was covered in a pool of oil. The torte was actually dissolving into the oil and pieces were floating away across the plate It must've been poured over the food, rather than actually used in the recipe, because the inside of the torte was perfect--no oil, not mushy. But the outside was honestly pretty gross; the oil totally overwhelmed the taste and ruined it. So I ate the inside and scraped off the outside. My friend's plate didn't fare much better. Had I known, I would've asked them to leave it off. I've been to probably 10 different raw restaurants and never have to worry because most raw places don't seem to use it (or such tiny amounts it isn't noticeable.)
I ate half my dinner and asked for the rest to-go. 30 minutes later, the waitress brought back half of my leftover portion to-go. I have no idea what happened to the other part of it, but for $15, I expect to go home with all the food I paid for
We ordered dessert--black forest cake. The waitress disappeared again. My friend got frustrated and canceled her order but told me to still get mine; I asked for mine to go in hopes of getting out of there before dark. It was cold and windy by this point. We were shivering and very uncomfortable and decided to stand in the entryway back into the restaurant (as shelter from the wind) to wait for my cake. At almost 8pm, the waitress came back and seemed annoyed that we were standing there. She gave us the bill and said "well, it might be hard to sign the receipt in the air like that, since you're not sitting down." We left her a big tip anyway, we were too cold to care at that point. On the way out, we noticed 3 of the 5 tables inside had cleared up. Nice of the waitress to mention that to us as she watched us standing up on the chairs trying to get the heat lamps to work earlier And as a final letdown, the cake had what seemed like a walnut-carrot crust, which did NOT go well with the chocolate and cherries. It would be much better with an apple pie type of dessert, or mincemeat or carrot cake. The chocolate-cherry portion of the cake was very good though.
So all in all, not a great experience. I'm actually going to write a letter to the restaurant because there is no reason service should be that poor, especially for a $60 check for 2 people. The food itself was pretty good, though I like Cafe Gratitude and Cafe Soulstice better. I would still consider going back, because I think I could make it a better experience knowing what I know now, but I feel awful that it ruined my friend's birthday evening.
Last edited by the_lab_rat; 08-01-2007 at 10:14 PM.
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